Rallycross entered a boom period 25 years ago. Group B cars arrived en masse and, for the next six years, would dominate the sport. These monsters, exiled from rallying after a spate of accidents became faster, lighter and more powerful as, in rallycross, they found their ultimate form. It’s true that every cloud has a silver lining, for Rallycross the cloud over rallying didn’t just present an opportunity but opened a golden era, perhaps the best years the sport has ever known. To mark that anniversary RallycrossWorld will look back at the 1987 season in parallel with the 2012 European Rallycross Championship.
Kjetil Bolneset and Mikael Nordtsröm go side-by-side. © Tim Whittington/RallycrossWorld.com
The sixth round of the 1987 ERC presented another ‘first’, this time the championship breaking new ground with its first appearance in Ireland where Mondello Park was in party mode as the circus rolled into town. The event drew a reported 8000 fans to Mondello and opened a series of ten events in the Irish Republic, most of which captured the spirit of an increasingly confident and affluent nation determined to have a good time.
British drivers made the short trip to Mondello and boosted the entry further. Mark Rennison was in the middle of his first BRC title season and crashed into the ERC at the peak of his form. Fastest time in the first heat set Rennison on the way to A final, his place confirmed when the Briton and his RS200 were second fastest to Matti Alamäki in the second heat. Seppo Niittymäki, his Peugeot 205 T16E2 equipped with a 610bhp ‘Pikes Peak’ spec motor to replace the one he seized in France, had spun out of the lead in the first heat but then set fastest time in the third to make his way to the A final. French event winner Olle Arnesson put his Quattro Sport S1 into the main event, along with Alamäki’s Lancia Delta S4. Having delivered a good result in France, John Welch was again in top form at Mondello and in the A final again, joined on the back of the grid by the similar Xtrac Escort of Terje Schie who won through from the B final. Schie had been involved in a crash that stopped the first attempt at the B final and left Will Gollop and Michael Shield with bent and battered Metro 6R4s.
Alamäki stood firm in a closely fought first corner to take the lead of the A final. Rennison had to retire his RS200 with front end damage after running into Alamäki’s Lancia in the first corner and, with perhaps the greatest threat out of the way, Alamäki was soon sprinting away to take his second event win of the year. Niittymäki ran second with Arnesson third until a slip allowed Terje Schie (who the Irish had dubbed Terry O’Shea) to jump the Quattro and take third in his Xtrac. As Arnesson fought back, so Welch was able to close on this little battle.
That first Mondello event also stands out for the Firday night welcome party thrown at Mondello’s lodge. Sponsored by Budweiser it offered free beer, which, as you may imagine, was all that was needed for things to get quite messy.
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